An Interview On
Brown University

Background

Interview Date:April 2018

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian
Graduation Year: 2018
High School Experience: Public school in Milan, Italy with graduating class of 150-200 students.
Concentrations: Applied Mathematics and Economics Double Concentration
Extracurricular Activities: Brown International Scholarship Committee, Brown International Organization, and a program house called Buxton House. Mainly all of these clubs would be international students together sharing our experiences and our tradition in the U.S. and the U.S. school system.

Do you think these clubs are effective in helping international students adapt?
Yes, yes definitely. I can only speak from personal opinion, but to me, they created a very family-like environment. It was really nice. Again, I talk about international clubs, but they are open to everyone. You don’t have to be from outside the USA to join. It’s more of a celebration of nationality and being proud of where you come from and where you are raised. I would say at least 20-30% of the people are either American or part American. To answer your question, yes, it has definitely helped me transition to the environment and I met my closest friends there.

Academic Experience

How was going from an international school to an American college academically?
It was very, very different. At first, I found that the relationships with professors were very different. The main difference between Brown and my high school in Italy is that there are much more opportunities to engage with the professors and there is definitely a higher level of support, because of the whole university environment. For example, I can have tutoring, I can have the TA’s go over stuff with me. It’s much more of an integrated system.

The biggest change for me was going from a non-curved system to a system with grades. In Italy, the grades I would receive would be at face value and out of 10. It’s all curved here which was very tough for me. I was used to having transcripts where my average GPA was an 8.4/10, which here would be a B -, but here if you are in the upper 80th percentile you’ll probably get an A in the classes I take. So, in that sense, it was an easy transition because I profited from it.

How did you manage from being taught in Italian to being taught in English?
I am half American and grew up being bilingual, so it wasn’t much of an issue from the beginning. It wasn’t a big factor.

Is there anything that you feel the Applied Mathematics or Economics departments do especially well or especially poorly?
Both concentrations do really well in terms of getting a degree of freedom within the concentrations. There are some core courses that everyone has to take, but then there are electives, so depending on what part of a subject interests you, you can really explore on your own terms. And, let me think, I didn’t really have a downfall. I was really happy with both of the departments in the concentrations I chose to study.

What has been your favorite class you’ve taken so far?
My favorite class I’m taking currently. It’s in neither of the departments I concentrate in, it’s called Persuasive Communication. It’s about teaching you to communicate better and learning certain techniques on how to effectively transmit your message.

What has been your least favorite class you’ve taken so far?
I took an introductory class in computer science, so coding. I really struggled in it. I think they could have done a better job for people who did not have previous experience or were not pursuing a major in it to introduce coding.

What’s a fun class you’ve taken?
I would say I have fun in my contemporary architecture class. It’s very well taught, the professors awesome, and I took it with a lot of friends. We study together for the quizzes, some people are working together on their models, it’s just a very fun class to be in.

On and Around Campus

What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
There’s a neighborhood called Federal Hill, which was originally the neighborhood Italian immigrants would go to. I go there like once every two months to get lunch or dinner either alone or with friends. I’ve been there alone a couple of times. I think it’s a very good place to get away from campus in a very easy way. It’s like a 10-minute Uber away.

Ok, so then do you have any Italian restaurant recommendations?
For sure, on Federal Hill you have Massimo, which is really, really good, and then Venda Ravioli, which is also delicious.

Can you describe the level of safety you have experienced on and around campus?
On campus on College Hill, which is the neighborhood Brown is in is 100 percent safe. I never felt threatened, even at night it is very safe. Within Providence there some more sketchy neighborhoods, but I was not affected by that.

Pros and cons of being in Providence, RI?
Pros: Because it’s such a small city and because Brown has such a big position in the city of Providence, it has a lot of pull in the city and occupies almost a whole neighborhood. So, living in Providence made it easy to have the college campus experience because I wasn’t distracted by having a whole city around me. I was very focused within my campus which I really enjoyed and I think it made friendships much stronger.

Cons: It can be a bit quiet and doesn’t have such a vibrant community and is not that accessible. It’s much more of a suburban city. So, in that sense, I think it was lacking.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I do a little bit of everything. Usually how it starts is we meet up at someone’s house, or if we were younger their room, to hang out a little bit before going out. I enjoy more of the club scene, so we go out to a bar with music or a club, and then come home and have a kind of after party or something.

How was transitioning from a place where the legal drinking age is 18 to the USA?
That was actually quite a shock for me. When I was in Italy the drinking age was 16 and then they changed it to 18. It was actually tough to adapt, I was lucky that I when I came to the U.S. I was already 19 and I was 21 by the time I was a sophomore so it didn’t affect me too much.

How happy were you with Brown’s nightlife? Is there anything you would change?
Well, I would say that it’s more about the people than the place itself. The nightlife was objectively quite sparse, there are not many clubs and the clubs we have are not the best. But then again, we’re all in the position where it’s either bad or nothing, so it was fine. I had my fun nights, etc. And the problem is, unfortunately, the city surrounding it. Providence isn’t as vibrant of a city as New York or Boston, so you can’t have that kind of nightlife.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
We had an international mentoring program during the first two weeks we came in. Basically, students identified as international come to campus a few days earlier than everyone else and do some different activities. I would say from week one I found my group of closest friends from that.

To what extent do you feel the international students mix with domestic students at Brown?
I think that there is some degree of mixing and staying separate. Through these houses, like Buxton, and through these different international programs, international students tend to stay together naturally. And I think having the background where you’re coming from a different place and a new system, most of the time your language helps you bond on a deeper level. However, I would say we’re not close as a community. I wouldn’t define our community as any closer than a sports team because, for example, a football player would be friends with another football player because they have that in common. I would say there is a lot of mixing, but because we are in a very open campus, but on some level also it is a bit tight-knit. So, it has a bit of both.

Was there anything that surprised you about Brown or American college when you arrived on campus?
Not really because I had attended three college programs in [American] universities before so I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into. I guess I was surprised honestly by how easy it was to integrate. I was actually thinking it would be harder to make such a close group of friends, so I was really surprised how Brown makes it a very tight-knit community in general.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Well not specifically for me, but it defiantly helps. There are a lot of opportunities, the career lab is really helpful, I have personally gone there to get help with my resume and cover letters. And the alumni network is very developed who were helped by the alumni network.

Have you learned any computer programs that will be especially helpful professionally?
My Corporate Finance class introduced me to Excel, and I know I’m going to need that.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew before entering Brown as a freshman?
I was interested in finance and consulting, and then I kind of found out along the way that Brown doesn’t really have a business school and for some reason they are not really big on finance. I [prepared for finance] mostly by majoring in both math and economics. But I wish I kind of knew that there was this kind of stigma around Brown not really being finance centered, just so I could adapt and maybe work harder along the way to break away from that.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I remember my visit very fondly, I loved the place. I would say that if you come on a day when it’s rainy or snowy you don’t really grasp the beauty of the place because you’re more worried about taking shelter. I would say definitely try to understand that this campus really shines and it’s beautiful and don’t get influenced by a bad day.

What I something a prospective international student should know that we haven’t touched on?
I would just say not to be overwhelmed by moving somewhere else, and that being at Brown as an international student was a great experience for me and I would do it over again if I could. And then the support and the friends you find, specifically here, is really awesome.

Reasons to attend Brown:
1) I would say definitely the open curriculum that allows you to make the most of your own education and tailor it to your preferences.
2) The community at Brown is a diverse group of people. And I’m not saying racially or are internationally, but just different perspectives and different ways of living and different ways of doing.
3) I would say the people you meet. I’m sure I would make close friends from college anywhere else, but I felt like I had a unique opportunity of meeting so many interesting people that I could not imagine meeting anywhere else.

Reasons to not attend Brown:
1) If you want more of a city life, consider something else because Providence is not a vibrant city.
2) Maybe if you know that you are specifically interested in some type of business there could be better options out there.

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